13 jun. 2017

the aesthetic of studying literature and the meaning of life.

I should be writing about romanticism, but I am too happy. i keep thinking, and thinking and some days and times I feel I have discovered the meaning of life. Weird, i know.

I’m in China reading about romantic poets trying to connect my ideas to explain why poems like ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ has not only folkloric roots —man, did I feel in love with folklore this semester— but it are also beautiful poems about man’s incapacity to understand its surroundings, and how Keats knew we are in fact but delusional in our attempts to become something near to Gods. Sure, I do believe we will find the secret to time travel (we are already on the way to that!) if we don’t kill ourselves first because of some stupid war, but even if we are able to do that, there will always be many secrets we won’t be able to understand. Ok, now that that digression is over:

I was thinking that without some trouble life would be so boring. My trouble now —and what has been from the past weeks —is finishing that essay. Actually, my trouble the past four years has been getting my degree. Don’t get me wrong, i am a good student and I really like what I study. Every semester I have been fascinated by how men have though over the centuries, and also have similar we can be to a medieval mind and maybe how distant to a 20th century modern poet (Yes, eliot, I’m talking about you and your hate for Hamlet)… but of course, some days I question what the hell or why the hell do I do what i do, that is, reading endless list of books and criticism, then trying to find a pattern or something and then write about it. It’s tough. Yes, studying literature is not as easy as you might think.

On the other hand, from time to time I take pictures of my books and the coffeeshops I attend. I post them on facebook or tumblr, rarely on instagram. I see many people doing the same on my feedback. Very interesting titles: mythology, languages, Camus, Dostoievsky, books about flowers or more obscure subjects. I also wonder how many of those books are actually read or finished reading. Aesthetically, being a literature student is great. One of my friends told me “what a happy life, i wish i could do that: just read and be at nice coffeeshops” I tought I was living the dream, somehow. But you know, if you have to spend endless hours and the library without seeing the sun, in a very uncomfortable position —yes, sitting is also exhausting!— and also, reading and reading and reading just aiming to finish your book on time to later read another one who also has a close deadline and later read even more to write about what you just read, well, it is not so romantic then. It is work.

Later, at a nice conversation with someone, those hours of work can come in handy. “Oh you know so much!” some people will tell you impressed (By the way, I was told that by a doctor! yes! some one who saves lives, I mean, common, sure knowing about archetypes is cool but saving someone from dying is much more and forever cooler, anyway…). and you might be able to be the heart of the party and get attention from people who wants to chat with you —it depends on the circumstance, the people and the type of party, of course — and you will feel like ‘wow, i’m so smart! i impressed them! hey, i think he likes me!” but then, after a weekend of fun and maybe being liked by a cute guy (what, I like how that feels. I’m vain, you know) you will go back to your hours of solitude with an even cuter guy (yeah, john keats). sadly he is dead, and he is from two centuries ago, lol. But you know, you will spend three or four weeks struggling with some topic your friends couldn’t care less about. So at the end, it is something that matters just to you! AND THAT IS FINE.

When I was younger I had the ‘what’s the point’ crisis. What is the point of reading about victorians, what is the point of writing this thing about Plato, what is the point of knowing how to read latin texts about a religion no one likes anymore, what, what, what … I am not curing cancer, I am not saving the environment, I ain’t helping people in Africa to get water. I mean, it can be overwhelming. So many brilliant minds and you, well, you read about fairytales. But then again IT IS PERFECTLY FINE. The final answer to all the prerogatives of an identity crisis is that if it matters to you, if it has meaning to you then it is perfectly ok to focus on those minor details of life. But my favorite part of this answer is not so much the WHAT but they WHY.

Why is it fine? Well, because life is made of so many little things embroidered together. Life is what happen in Roman wars and it is also those fossils found in the Caribbean that can lead to new answers of how we ended up were we ended up. Life is about the particles and chemics that can make sustainable energy but it is also the story of that man who wrote moving poems about the revolution in the light of a candle, life is understanding the physics of movement to improve peoples life by creating prosthetics, but life is also the beauty of a perfect salchow performed by a figure ice skater, and life is also about what you are doing know: are you writing for a magazine telling your opinion about a movie? “who really cares about what i’ve gotta say” you might think. Well, for sure someone does, but also, criticism is a way to improve what is being criticize: if someone hadn't say “hey! why are women superheros always sexualized or just included as an eye candy for men” we wouldn’t have encouraging heroines who tell girls they are just as a strong as any other man, and to change a girls life is to change the world entire. you never know the impacts of your actions. If you write a poem, or draw a beautiful picture, or create a universe of beauty and fantasy you might not save someone from cancer —maybe not even the doctors will —but have you think that you can bring happiness to that person? that your poem might make her or him feel less alone, or that maybe the characters of your universe can feel close to them, and make them feel life is pretty despite being short? What about their families, people taking care of them and knowing they might be gone soon? Maybe through a song their child loved they will be able to remember the good times they have and to an extent, to be close to him or her after they leave this world. So maybe arts and humanities do not ‘save’ people in the sense we think when we talk about doctors or scientists, but they accompany us in the difficult path life is, and remind us is terrible but also beautiful and certainly, fun to discover.

Do you know how happy I am to read about the witches in Russia and compare them to witches in Mexico? Maybe no one cares but I care, and that is more than enough.

So you too, whatever you care about, it is fine. It might make you struggle, but without some struggle life would be so, so boring

Eventually we all will leave this place, so in the short time we are given, better enjoy it, even if we think it does not matter or it is purposeless. Chance are it is not. I personally don’t think there’s a purposeless thing in life. Making candles to decorate a cake and bringing happiness to someone, learning a language to translate something so other people can enjoy it, teaching about how humanity used to think eight centuries ago so we can better understand our here and now, making make up videos so a girl can feel pretty and more confident in her first date, writing a book so people can feel happy in the middle of the night in a country far away from home instead of alone and lost, owning a store that sell things just because they are pretty, because that too brings a smile to someone… yes, everything matters. Curing cancer or cooking a warm meal, no one is more or less important by what they do.

So the meaning of life is whatever you want it to be. I guess it is also helping others, directly or indirectly. And it is also about finding our own struggle to make it more exciting.

now, I guess I should go back to my ‘fairy tales and romanticism’ research. And hope to finish it on time.

3 jun. 2017

Between witches, fairies and dreams

They say you must always dream big, and that if your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough. Well right now I’m scared. Of course, once you find something you want to do you are so happy, it is like “wow now I know the meaning of life!! at least of my life!!” which is more than enough…and then, when you start looking for it in depth you are like…”yikes! this is actually hard to do.” I know, I know… haven’t I learned anything? I shouldn’t worry… actually I should be writing an essay about witches in british poetry, but my mind was not really working…my mind was thinking about living abroad and how easy or difficult it can be.

I studied English Literature because I wanted to. I wonder if that was the right decision for a Mexican girl. Can I really teach English abroad or will they always prefer a ‘native’ speaker? Will I be confined to Academy all my life? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret doing what I did because it was what I really wanted: learn about Dickens and Shakespeare and discover what the hell was literary theory and literary criticism and overall, being a more ‘cultured’ person. I also wanted to travel and studying English lit. allowed me to do that: I studied in London and now I study in China, wow! awesome! so far away from home! but of course, along the way I’ve discover my love for traveling and living in the places I’m quite in love with. Also, my love for learning languages. But is that really profitable? After living in China, I want to learn Japanese and then live in Japan. Of course, although my English level is better than most japanese people, they might hire a Canadian, Australian or Irish english speaker over someone whose native tongue is Spanish. Still, hey, I must believe in myself! Who cares about what the internet says about how hard it is to live in Japan! Yeah, hard things. Well, baby, I shouldn’t be so freaking insecure. After all, I’m doing pretty well in China, I think. And China is no easy country either.

What I am rambling about, basically, is in our ability for believing and persisting. I was quite freaking disappointed of myself when I found myself already thinking my dream was impossible without even freaking trying! Like, who cares if I spent two years studying to become a Spanish teacher and then I hate it…it is better to try and live something different than staying in the boredom of security. After all we only have one life, so better spend it doing something amazing, even if we later fail.

I really want to learn other languages, it is never too late and we have a life to do so… even if I have to work as a barista for sometime…(I wonder if baristas win more money than teachers in Mexico) just to have time and money to keep studying what I like. If it was easy it would be boring, right?

I quite have an idea of having a school to make teaching fun, to give something back to life! I’ve been very lucky after all and I feel education improves our lives so much. But I’m also in love with learning…then I must do something with that knowledge, even when some days it is hard! Like today… it seems impossible to start the essay about the figure of supernatural women in British Poetry, but I’ve been reading a lot of books written by Jack Zipes, a fairytale enthusiast. I’m so impressed by the love and dedication he has towards the subject.

I guess that is it. If you chose something you have to love it —or at least like it— and then you have to invest and dedicate yourself to it. So I want to dedicate myself to learning foreigner languages — English is not enough! let’s be fluent in french, korean and japanese! —and even if the path is rouge, one should not be insecure. Just do it. Do it, do it, invest, study, try… eventually there will be a result, and if it turns out as ‘impossible’ o ‘a waste of time’, I’m still pretty sure along the way one must learn something.

Tenacity, perseverance… for whatever you want to do or obtain in this life.

So yeah, Eloisa, let’s not be afraid. You will do it, you will live in the places you want to be and you will be happy you did it. You will not regret it… you just have to be patient and work hard!!

Ah, as for that essay… you will write it and you will graduate and you will do that thesis about Ann Radcliffe.

You get back what you put in. So… never feel frustrated about the hours invested in the library, they will pay off. Of course, taking walks and doing exercise is necessary for your health! haha. But that essay about poetry will be written, because you are able to do it, just like Jack Zipes is able to be obsessed with fairytales and write badass things about them. Get obsessed with your languages, travel the world, become the best, It is possible, it is very, very possible with enough work.

It is normal to feel insecurities, but we should let them define us or prevent us to be daring, to try, to despite them have the courage to go for what we want. 

So dream big, and even when you are scared of those dreams, keep on dreaming. They will come true.

14 may. 2017

I don't speak Chinese, wo bu shuo hanyu. But I live in China.

I am a Mexican exchange student in China for the Spring semester of 2017. That's all you need to know.
I say: "wo xuexi le hanyu yi ge yue zai moxige before coming to China (中国)" and they nod and smile. Then I show them I can write some characters in chinese. "Cat" (猫) "Fox" (狸) "Dog" (狗), and I say "I learnt fox the other day. I went to a coffeeshop with a friend and she taught me" There is surprise in their faces. They think I learn fast. I don't. My pronunciation is awful. "Wo de hanyu bu hao" but they always say "Well it is good for a foreigner", "but you are not studying it", "you've only been here for three months". I feel frustrated and happy. A weird combination. Then a Mexican friend of mine says to me "pinche idioma feo" and I giggle. I say nothing. I think "I guess learning other languages has just made me more tolerant about it".
I know many times languages won't make sense, there are rules without explanations and as I attended a Spanish for foreigners class the other day, I think Spanish is, too, a pain in the ass.
As I wander in this city full of people, I grasp part of conversations, sometimes I can identify which language someone is speaking and sometimes I can speak it too. "Tu est francais?" "Belge", "Tu es francais?" "Oui, de Paris" and how romantic. I ended up kissing that boy that night.  And I thought "I guess that is the dream. Kissing a boy from Paris" and I talked to my 12-year-old self who didn't like french homework: "See, it paid off". (And yes, I talk to her in English, not in Spanish).
Then I met a girl whose major was Swedish and when she said that I, smiling, overexcited, say "Jag can talar svenska." And she was so freaking shocked. Like, really, her mouth almost fell to the floor. Why would a Mexican speak Swedish? And why is that language useful in China? well, it is not. And it is. We became friends. "Why did you learn it?" "For fun. I just studied it one semester". and because I liked Ingmar Bergman. Because I thought the language sounded beautiful. Because I really liked A Swedish Love Story. We had a conversation about Swedish language, about traveling and studying and all that. Now every time I see her on campus we say hi to each other. And of course I feel less alone. So I made a Chinese friend not because I can speak Chinese or because she is fluent in english (she is) but because I was able to say "Vad heter du?"
Another time, a teacher asked us to write a poem using our native language and then translating it to English. "Use five words who you think are the most beautiful, and use them in the poem". And so I do. But then, I approach my professor frustrated. "I can't do it." "Why?" "Because this word doesn't exist in English". "Madrugada" doesn't have a translation into English. "Early morning", "early dawn", it is not the same.
I feel there is a huge difference between "amanecer" and "madrugada". The first can mean hope, or parting, even regret from last night. But the other... "madrugada" is you walking in the dark streets of any city, with your friends, a bit dizzy, a bit drunk, a bit in love. That's why I like "madrugada" better than "early morning" or anything else.
And in a "madrugada", after a club I take a cab in the never-ending city of Beijing with my friend from Mexico. We had so much fun with a bunch of foreigners who can't speak Chinese, and who say things like "I cannot wait for it to be July so I can go back to Rome", "Y yo soy Español, hostia!", and we laughed. But in our way back we are once again alone with the "beijingner", and the one who does not speak English at all: a late hours taxi driver. So we say "Beiwai"(That's the name of my uni in Chinese). He drives. We are happy, excited, and quite afraid. But we ignore the last part of that sentence and start speaking in Spanish. Then the taxi driver interrupts us, he said something. My friend is studying Chinese but she can't understand a thing. So I say "zen ma, zen ma?" (Sorry, what?) --As if I knew! And then a miracle happens!  I understand two words! I feel so happy it is stupid (and not at all). "Na li" I know it means where. So I take a guess and reply: "Wo men shi mo xi ge ren". "We are mexicans", "Somos mexicanas", "Nous sommes mexicaines", "Vi är mexikaner", "mekishiko hitodesu"... but of all of them, just one worked and one I knew "wo men shi moxigeren". He smiled and laughed. He said we were very pretty. "Xie xie", then again he asked us something. I couldn't understand. "Zen ma?" He spoke slower. I understood the phrase. I laughed so hard because I was surprised by the question, he laughed because he was surprised I understood. "Mei you, mei you". My friend look at me quite lost. What was going on? The language barrier was down for me to some extent, however she didn't know I laughed cause the taxi driver asked if we had boyfriends, and I, embarrassed by his question, said we didn't. When I explained to her, once we were in campus again, she said "And I'm the one who is studying chinese..." I don't know how I was able to have a conversation with a chinese taxi driver either, but I did. "Maybe it is because you have studied languages". Maybe.
But you know, there is this theory about people being different depending on the language they are speaking. Also, now many monolingual people (specially English speakers) regret not knowing more languages. As for us, who speak at least two languages, we might think about it deeply: who am I in English? Who am I in Spanish? and even in French... and how exhausting it can be sometimes, not speaking in your mother tongue for a while.
I can share one secret with you: for me Spanish is home. It is comfort. It is the starbucks coffeeshop round the corner where I study other languages but where I feel at ease. "Un café americano. Mediano. Sin leche. ¿Quién le pone leche al café?" and not "yi ge... yi ben? meiguo...meishui kafei... ah?  eh? ah! Dui, re. Bu 'milk' (I have to look up my phone now) Bu munai (also, i used my fingers to stress the mispronounced tones)" I finish saying that, exhausted, confused. Just asking for a coffee without milk is a whole thing. I'm never exhausted in Spanish.
English, well...If I do sometimes forget words I can at least substitute them with others, and it is not bad at all. English is my language for adventures and making friends. Even a bit of a show-off when I say "my mother tongue is Spanish". English, if not comfort, is security.
We must accept is dominance in the world, which allows you to communicate with a wide range of people anywhere. Just the other day I was able to find the police station for an interview about my visa because I asked a Chinese girl "I am lost, do you know where is this place?" and she understood me.
Mikhail Bakhtin said "...language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between ones' self and the other..." So even when we learn and master, two, three, four, five languages, I guess there will always be an otherness in that which isn't (y)our mother tongue, some kind of mystery, but also some "appropriation" of the language, as we become fluent and we make it our own. We will be, both a self and another. Isn't that interesting?
So for me, Spanish is comfort and home. It is discussing with my mother, it is petting my dog, it is playing at my grandma's garden when I was eight, it is coffee-made-easy. It is home.
English is poetry and beauty. After all, I decided to study English literature 'cause I found it entrancing. But it is also security. Security in this vast world. And of course, the possibility of making friends despite where we are and where we come from. So English is also fun, adventures and good times. English is my abroad self. The one with less worries, or different worries who do not seem too bad.
As for French, well, I've never been to Paris before, but I guess it is true, at least for me, that French is the language of love! even if it is just for one night at a Beijing club.

4 mar. 2017

He perdido muchas cosas en esta vida. He perdido un par de medias, algunas horas, he perdido días enteros, la sonrisa, el corazón. He perdido un sueter negro en esa estación de Londres, una bufanda en un invierno en China, he perdido la paciencia, la página de un libro, una nota de amor. He perdido las llave de esa casa, ese único recuerdo que me quedaba. He perdido la inocencia, los modales. He perdido amigos, confianzas, certezas. He perdido el secreto que me diste, he perdido tu número de teléfono. He perdido el coraje para decirte te quiero, he perdido las ganas de verte. He perdido tantos amores, tantos besos me han robado en noches largas y miradas indiscretas. He perdido la cabeza por una muchacho, o tal vez dos, he perdido la sonrisa, he perdido el corazón. Pero tanto he ganado.


Estoy en China. Todo es muy raro aquí. Pero me gusta.
Beijing Foreing Studies University, School of English and International Studies